A Homily Delivered by Doddie Stone
Mount Diablo Church, Walnut Creek, CA
June 26, 1988
(Note: This was Doddie’s “coming out” sermon to the congregation where she was a member.)
a coming out story would be
a chronicle of all the days of all my lives
it seems there is either nothing to tell,
or far too much
how can i possibly capture any of it
stop the flow
march it out in lines for all to see and know
i am always coming out
endlessly unfolding on an infinite number of levels
i struggle and persist.
– Constance Faye (“Come Again”)
On this day, as they have for many years, the closets of Contra Costa County will open and gay men and women will travel to San Francisco to be part of the annual Gay Pride parade. They’ll watch from the sidelines, join in the crowds as the parade wraps itself around the watchers, or they will openly march with one of the contingents proclaiming GAY IS GOOD.
When the day is over the weary revelers will take BART back to Contra Costa and most of them will go back into their closets. Then, except for occasional visits and conversations with trusted friends, the closet door will stay almost shut for most of the hidden “gays” within our community. Because Contra Costa is not the most sympathetic place to live in an openly gay relationship, men and women will try to hide behind masks and labels to attempt to “fit” in our suburban, traditional, nuclear family-oriented community.
It’s not so difficult to hide (or think you’re hiding) if you find enough labels to complete the disguise. It’s very useful to proclaim the labels of husband, wife, mother, father, grandmother or grandfather if those experiences have also been part of your life. You can even use the labels of liberal organizations and support the causes of gay rights by claiming membership in the National Organization for Women, the American Civil Liberties Union — or even the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, especially when you hold titles of responsibility like “Social Action Chair.” One can continue for many years or even a lifetime withholding the sharing of self by simply relying on the most useful label of all — “Some of my best friends are…”
But there comes a time when the labels and masks seem to be exactly that — a way of hiding, creating barriers to stop the full expression of who you want to be and what you consider integrity for your own life. When that time comes, you realize, AS I DID, that you aren’t really fooling anyone except yourself, and you come to understand that if you really want to stand up and be counted, you begin to work close to home, as well as far away in Central America, to speak against injustice and oppression wherever you see them operating.
When David Fanning asked me to share in this service, I don’t think he knew what an opportunity for a giant leap of personal growth he was offering me. But when I said yes, I knew I was making a decision to come forward that was even scarier to me than being arrested in El Salvador or crawling under a barricade at the Concord Naval Weapons Station. And I’m still very aware as I stand in this place that I don’t want the new labels to interfere with how I relate to students in my classroom or associates on my staff in my regular job.
Yet it has finally dawned on me that as I approach the age of 53, I can’t wait till I grow up to try to live to my full potential. I can no longer let my father’s words of 20 years ago — “I hope you don’t have any of those tendencies” — be a barrier to expressing my caring and my relationship to all those I come in contact with — both men and women.
For I do have those tendencies and those tendencies have shaped and influenced my life so that I am deeply touched by the pain and sorrow as well as the joys and strengths of my sisters and my brothers wherever I travel in this ever-shrinking world. I know that what affects one of us affects all of us, for we are one family sharing this time and space together on planet Earth.
I am very grateful to be a member of this denomination at this time in my life. I am still filled to the brim and overflowing with the experiences of this past week as I participated as one of our delegates to our General Assembly in Palm Springs. I am proud to at last belong to a church that seeks to affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person. (I know at the same time that it isn’t a simple task to experience acceptance of one another, for I also learned at that same General Assembly that the survey in our UU World magazine last fall on attitudes towards homosexuality revealed that about 1500 — or approximately half of the 3000 responses — still showed evidence of much homophobia in many of our congregations across this continent.)
But I also know that as we covenant to affirm and promote “the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all,” we all grow as we attempt to understand and eradicate the injustices of our own back yard beginning right here in Walnut Creek, inside this very room.
Our congregation voted to be a sanctuary church — a safe haven for those who were fleeing unjust persecution in their homelands. We took in a family to live in our front yard and we continue to give our money and our time to speak loudly for human rights. I firmly believe that there are those here in Contra Costa County who need this church to be their sanctuary also — a place where they can come and be safe against prejudice and persecution from those who consider it a crime to express love for someone of the same sex — a place where all men and women can be validated for expressing caring for one another regardless of the gender of the lover or the beloved. And I want to be part of that community, both offering and receiving sanctuary.
What are the rewards for opening our hearts and doors for such a sanctuary? Just very simply that we each grow as we are touched by one another — as individuals, as members of MDUUC, and as living beings in the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part.
I would leave you with one last thought contained in a poem by Richard S. Gilbert. “May we not close our doors on those we do not know or would not know. May our doors be open to all, because someday through them might walk a friend.”